Making a layup. A simple skill in the game of basketball that every player learns at a young age. And yet, I believe that we are doing a disservice to our young players when we focus on the results of the shot rather than the process of learning how to shoot a layup with either hand.
If you’ve been a reader of our blog, you already know that our coaching philosophy revolves around the concept that mistakes are a critical part of the learning process. Players don’t learn, grow, or improve their skills if they only attempt to do things in practices or games that they are already good at.
How does this apply to teaching players to shoot a layup with either hand? Most young players by the age of 7 or 8 are capable of shooting a layup with their strong hand using proper form. I think most youth coaches probably do a good job of teaching strong hand layups. It’s teaching the weak hand layup where many coaches fall short. Sure, we can teach the correct technique, but do we reinforce the importance of shooting the layup with the weak hand or do our words and actions focus on the results?
When a player misses a layup with their weak hand how do you react as a coach or parent? Do you yell, “C,mon, make the layup! Or do you reinforce the effort by saying, “Great job shooting that layup with your left hand!” There is a huge difference between those two statements. The first one discourages the player from trying a difficult new skill, the second lets the player know that you support their attempt to improve with their weak hand.
I am currently coaching my son’s fifth grade travel basketball team. We started with several players from this group when they were in third grade. From the first day of practice more than two years ago we praised the players when they shot a layup with their weak hand REGARDLESS OF THE RESULT. This was true in practice, not very hard to do, and also in games, a little harder if your only goal is to win. Our players have missed a lot of weak hand layups in the past three years, but they are also way better with their weak hand layups than they would have been had we coached them differently. As they continue to develop their skill sets I believe they’ll be better players in the long term as a result of this simple teaching concept. It’s tough to praise a missed layup in the heat of a game. Those two points could be critical to the outcome. However, if your goal as a coach is to develop the skill level of your players you must be willing to praise the unsuccessful attempts taken with the weak hand and not just the ones that go in the basket. If you commit to making this simple change in your approach as a coach or parent you’ll help your young player improve their weak hand layups and build a stronger basketball skill set!
If you want kids to be willing to learn and try new skills on the basketball court you must be willing to praise their effort regardless of the results. Reward players for their unsuccessful attempts as well as the successful ones and you’ll see them try to execute skills outside their comfort zone much more often.
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